Australian Iron Ore Ports Brace as Cyclone to Intensify

Iron ore ports in northwest Australia, the world’s biggest exporter of the raw material, are shutting as a strengthening tropical cyclone nears the Pilbara coast.

Port Hedland, the largest ore-export terminal, closed at 1 a.m. local time, the port authority said in an e-mailed statement. The port of Dampier will close at 6 p.m. local time, acting Chief Executive Officer Paul Toussaint-Jackson said in a phone interview today.

Category two Cyclone Christine is expected to strengthen to category three tomorrow before making landfall near Dampier, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Port Hedland and 1,200 kilometers north of Perth, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Port Hedland exports iron ore from mines owned by BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest miner, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. Rio Tinto Group ships ore from Dampier and Cape Lambert.

“If Christine continues to develop as expected a severe tropical cyclone impact on the Pilbara coast is likely late on Monday or early on Tuesday, with very destructive winds” including gusts in excess of 165 kilometers per hour near the cyclone’s center, the weather bureau said.

BHP said yesterday that it had commenced preparations to secure port and rail infrastructure.

Australia’s cyclone season typically runs from November to April with storms affecting shipping of commodities and potentially shutting offshore oil and gas production.

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